Press-Republican

June 6, 2013

Students gain hands-on experience on the job

AMY HEGGEN
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — Responsibility, professionalism, leadership, teamwork and safety are all skills that students learn while participating in the Work Experience Program.

Open to any student in Clinton, Franklin and Essex counties, the newly established nonprofit establishes a link between area organizations and students interested in interning with them. The participants gain work experience while volunteering, program President Lance Falcon said.

Peru High School student Dustin Eyer, an intern at the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum, has the hands-on opportunity to help with the preservation of the cars, which includes cleaning and checking the oil and tire pressure.

Eyer, whose orientation there allowed him to sit inside and simulate starting and driving a Model T Ford, said he is looking forward to working with and being around the older cars. 

He will also be responsible for doing research about the vehicles, said Dick Soper, the exhibit manager.

“I grew up working in the garage with my dad,” Eyer said. “Older cars are a little bit different; still a lot to learn about them.”

About 10 students from Peru Central School are expected to learn through volunteering at the Transportation Museum.

WORK-ORIENTED

Currently, the Work Experience Program is working with students from Peru Central.

“I was quite amazed at the professionalism they showed,” Falcon said of the students who participated in the program during the 2012-13 school year.

The idea for the program came to Falcon, a bus driver for Peru Central School, as he did blacksmith demonstrations at the Babbie Rural and Farm Museum in Peru. There, he created an orientation program for students who were interested in gaining necessary skills to work at a museum.

Students have also interned at the War of 1812 Museum in Plattsburgh.

“We set up programs that are educational, work-oriented and hands-on experiences,” he said.

Opportunities for students aren’t limited to museums, however, and Falcon welcomes inquiries from other organizations and businesses that would like to get involved.

REAL-LIFE SCENARIO

Jim Testo, a family and consumer science teacher at Peru Central and Work Experience Program vice president, teaches students skills that will help them become more employable. He sees a need for the program.

“Employers are looking for students who have communication skills and interview skills,” he said.

The internships are built to help students gain self-esteem and confidence as they navigate through new experiences. 

“It (the program) is based on the individual,” Testo said.

“We use what they’ve been taught (in school) and put them in a real-life scenario,” Falcon said. “These types of experiences enhance the employability of students.”

There is also an opportunity for students to learn business skills, he said. As the program grows, interested pupils will be responsible for developing the website, creating marketing materials and planning fundraisers.

“We want them to go out see what it’s like to work,” Falcon said. “Wish someone would have taught me that.”

He encourages students to try something new, look at things differently and use their imagination while gaining skills beyond the classroom.

“Let’s get our students to open their eyes,” Falcon said. “If they do something wrong, it’s a learning experience.”

TRANSPORTATION COSTS

The Work Experience Program is trying to raise funds for transportation to and from the different sites. Falcon also hopes to work with local bus companies.

“Our biggest hurdle is getting students to the sites,” Testo said.

While also supporting students and their goals, the Work Experience Program intends to support local organizations and the North Country’s heritage.

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WORK EXPERIENCE PROGRAM

Any student interested in the Work Experience Programcan contact Lance Falcon at 335-4649 or visit the website at www.wepprogram.weebly.com.